Being the thoughts and writings of one Gustaf Erikson; father, homeowner, technologist.

This category contains posts about computing, programming, and development

Saturday, 2005-01-15

Teaching kids to code

Matthew asks how one goes about to teach kids to code. Viking is too small yet, but it’s an interesting question. I know Hanna is quite proficient in HTML, mostly by copying and pasting, but Leo has shown no interest whatsoever in coding.

Part of the problem is the polished and complex nature of todays computers. In our day, you could slavishly copy pages of code and get something that worked. Even if it was just copying, you got down and dirty with the code. Some of it stuck. A curious kid (which I was not) could explore further, learning more and more. Whether learning Basic and VIC-20 assembler was a good thing is another question…

But now? Who can feel that they can produce something like Doom 3 by themselves?

Having said that, I believe a programming environment should have a graphic component. A former co-worker’s son loves (loved? it’s been a while) a DOS-based program for scripting dungeon adventures. A language of that kind could introduce the building blocks of programming — loops, conditionals, events — in a fun way that gives instant feedback and makes debugging fun.

An OO component could make it easy to “clone” your succesful monster, trap, whatever, and re-use the code. Introducing test cases is perhaps overkill at this stage…

I haven’t seen Lego’s Mindstorm stuff, but if anyone can make IDEs for kids, it should be them.

Update: Bill Ward writes in a comment:

For me it was BASIC on the Commodore too. But today’s kids have options as well. I think Javascript may be a good choice. My wife is taking a Flash class at the local college, and teaching me what she is learning. That could be a good choice too, except for the fact that it’s rather expensive.

I remember someone prophesying that Windows Scripting would be the next “laymans programming language”, but I haven’t seen MS promoting it that way. Having an easy to learn powerful scripting language built into the OS would introduce lots of people to programming, not just kids.

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